CIE registration punch cards

CIE Innovations: A tale of early campus computing and student registration


Today’s students register for classes from virtually anywhere in the world thanks to mobile technologies and the Internet. From a portable laptop, students connect to the university’s intuitive interface and register for courses with a few keystrokes. Computerized registration has come a long way from its beginnings on our campus. In the 1960s, CIE was one of the first organizations at The University of Texas at Austin to adopt computerized registration as a way to maintain accurate records and remove errors from the registration process. It was a very different process than what students experience today.

Once upon a time, a computer punch card was made for every seat, in every course offered at the university. Students would wait in line at registration hoping to snag one of the punch cards that would allow entrance to a desired course. After getting the punch card for one course, students would then wait in another line hoping to get another punch card and another and so on. While waiting, there was little insight as to whether or not courses were still available and, upon learning that a course was full, it was not uncommon to have to start over in another line. Once students had accumulated all of the punch cards for their desired course load, the bundle was then taken to a central processing location where the cards were fed into a mainframe computer and the student’s official course schedule was printed out. Only then, was registration complete. It may seem like a clunky process to us, but in its time it was the most efficient system for maintaining accurate records in an institution as large as The University of Texas at Austin.

Although this process was the first step towards integrating computers in registration, it has left a lasting impact on the development of subsequent systems. And the spirit of innovation that led to its adoption endures today. CIE continues to explore opportunities found in new technologies, from offering online courses to building learning communities through social networking. Visit our Web site to explore CIE’s programs and discover how new technologies are being utilized today.

Punch card registration in Gregory Gym circa 1971.


Tags: technology, innovation, computerized registration, 100 years,